October 16, 2018 – The night before Paul Bernardo’s parole hearing
I wish I could tell my 27 year old self that in the year 2018 I would be attending Paul Bernardo’s parole hearing just so I could see the look of disbelief on my face.
In 1995, when I was 27, I covered Paul Bernardo’s murder trial. I sat in court every day for four months hearing every single detail of the horrific crimes Bernardo committed with the help of his wife Karla Homolka.
Bernardo never denied that he kidnapped, confined and sexually assaulted 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy and 15-year-old Kristen French. Heck, he even admitted that he cut up Leslie’s body with a power saw and encased the pieces in cement blocks. But Bernardo never admitted that he killed the teenage girls.
Bernardo took the stand in his own defence and told the court that he wasn’t present when Leslie and Kristen died. Bernardo testified that the girls had been left alone with Homolka and when he came back they were dead. Bernardo’s defence lawyer John Rosen suggested that Homolka pushed Leslie’s face into a pillow and suffocated her and that Kristen died during a struggle to escape. Rosen said Homolka beat Kristen with a rubber mallet.
Back then I didn’t believe Bernardo’s defence for a minute and I don’t believe it now.
I believed the Crown’s theory that Bernardo strangled both girls with an electrical cord and so too did the jury.
The trial actually seemed like a great big waste of time because of the videotaped evidence showing Bernardo beating and sexually assaulting Leslie and Kristen. Even if by some minutely small ridiculous chance that Bernardo was telling the truth about not killing the girls he would still be guilty. Canadian law dictates that if someone dies after being kidnapped and confined you are guilty of first degree murder.
Bernardo was convicted and sentenced to life in prison plus he was deemed a dangerous offender which has an indefinite sentence. Despite the label he would still be eligible to apply for parole after serving 25 years. Back then 25 years seemed like a lifetime away.
But here we are now in 2018 and Bernardo’s lawyer recently told the media that his client is ready to return to the community after spending the past 25 years trying to improve himself. According to his lawyer he has received counselling and taken part in some programs while in prison.
Whatever Bernardo did, it’s not enough. Bernardo will never be rehabilitated. He will never be ready to return to the community. Surely the Parole Board will agree and dismiss Bernardo’s application. But in the meantime, the families of Bernardo’s victims have to relive the terror that they have been trying to put behind them for over 25 years. That doesn’t seem right. If we know he will never get out why then go through the motions. Can’t we have a system that allows for the worst kind of offenders to receive a life sentence with no chance of parole? Can’t we stop Bernardo from applying for parole every two years for the rest of his life?
October 17, 2018 — The day of Paul Bernardo’s parole hearing
My observations from Bernardo’s parole hearing.